A Message from 1971 1971 was the year of the Synod of Bishops’ statement Justice in the World – and the year of the musical Godspell. Based on the gospel of Matthew, its opening song reflects this year’s gospel reading for the second Sunday of Advent. Colleen Hewitt sang in the Australian production of Godspell. Here is footage from 1971 of her singing a medley of Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord / Day by Day Justice in the World was the first Catholic Social Teaching document to acknowledge that the Church must witness to justice in its own life in order to be credible when calling for justice in the world. Forty five years later, justice within the Church remains a task and a challenge. During the second week of Advent, we can reflect on how we are contributing to making the life of the Church more just. We can also prepare the way of the Lord by being more credible witnesses to the Gospel in our own lives. Peace on Earth Traditionally, we focus on peace in the second week of Advent. So we might take up the particular challenge of becoming better witnesses to Gospel nonviolence.
On 29 November 1986 Pope John Paul II addressed the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in Alice Springs. Because of its historic importance, Catholics around Australia will celebrate the 30th anniversary on Sunday 27 November. The celebration calls for reflection on progress towards justice for indigenous Australians. Moreover, it challenges Catholics to joyfully receive the gifts of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. In 1986 John Paul II said: You are part of Australia and Australia is part of you. And the Church herself in Australia will not be fully the Church that Jesus wants her to be until you have made your contribution to her life and until that contribution has been joyfully received by others. – Pope John Paul II, Alice Springs, 29 November 1986. As well as looking back, the anniversary invites the Church in Australia to look forward. In this way it calls on Catholics to work with renewed commitment for justice and inclusion for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities. NATSICC Resource To celebrate the anniversary, the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council are offering an online resource. It aims at helping the whole community to celebrate the event. Importantly, the resource makes the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people heard. In this way it challenges the general community to reflect on indigenous perspectives on the event, and the significance of its anniversary. In addition, the resource provides activities and highlights ways in which all people can act on contemporary challenges. To access the NATSICC Resource for the 30th anniversary of the Alice Springs address visit this page. Read the Full Text of the Alice Springs Address You can read the official text of John Paul II’s speech at Blatherskite Park, Alice Springs in Australia’s Northern Territory here. Learn About Catholic Social Teaching on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Learn more about what Catholic Social Teaching has to say about the rights of indigenous peoples by visiting this page.
Social Justice Statement 2016 – 2017 The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference Social Justice Statement 2016 – 2017 addresses social justice in an ageing society. The statement is titled A Place at the Table. Bishop Vincent Long van Nguyen’s opening message explains: At this time in Australia, we face a threefold challenge: to work for an inclusive society that brings older people into the heart of the community; to ensure the dignity and care of people who are frail and most vulnerable to neglect or abuse; and to foster solidarity among all generations, recognising the special affinity that exists between young and old. Statement Highlights This video presents highlights from the statement. Download Social Justice Statement 2016 – 2017 A Place at the Table can be downloaded in word or PDF format here. Supporting Resources The Australian Catholic Social Justice Council provides a range of resources to help parishes, communities and Catholic organisations to engage with the statement. They include: – a summary of the statement, – a letter from Archbishop Hart, President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference – liturgy notes – a Community Education Resource – a prayer card called A Prayer for All Ages – an action leaflet called Ten Steps to Creating a Place at the Table – and a PowerPoint presentation Resources can be downloaded here.
The Catholic Church in Australia will celebrate Migrant and Refugee Sunday 2016 on 28 August. Bishop Calls for Culture of Encounter and Welcome Bishop Vincent Long Van Nguyen, the Australian Catholic Bishops Delegate for Migrants and Refugees said, “Australia has had a long history of welcoming migrants and refugees, including many ‘boat people’ who in turn have contributed to its wellbeing and development”. He added that Pope Francis’ example provides us with “a timely and fresh impetus to reclaim the welcoming and generous spirit that has shaped our great nation”. Bishop Long said that in this Year of Mercy, with many newly arrived migrants and refugees in Australia, we must enact a culture of encounter, welcome and acceptance in practical, personal and communal ways. He expressed appreciation for the parishes and organisations that are “actively assisting refugees that have recently arrived from war-torn Syria and Iraq.” He saw this as “a great opportunity for us to make a difference and to influence government policies in relation to refugees and asylum seekers”. Bishop Says Close the Offshore Immigration Detention Centres Bishop Long pleaded with the Australian authorities to close offshore detention centres in Manus Island and Nauru immediately. He called for an end to the sufferings of the asylum seekers by way of a more humane solution. “Any breach of their right to be treated with humanity and with respect for their inherent dignity will stain our conscience and blight our future as a nation,” he said. Immigration Minister Peter Dutton earlier indicated that the Manus Island Detention Centre would close – but there was no hurry. The Director of the Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office disagreed, saying “… we urge that a solution to the situation of the men in the detention centre ought to be decided quickly. Many of these men have already been in detention for more than three years.” Read the Media Releases You can read Bishop Long’s statement to the media here. The ACMRO media release on the closure of the Manus Island Detention Centre is here. Kit for Migrant and Refugee Sunday 2016 The Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office offers a kit with information and resources to help parishes and communities to celebrate this event. The Kit is available here. More on Catholic Social Teaching You can find an overview of Catholic Social Teaching on people on the move here.
World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation In 2015 Pope Francis asked Catholics to join with the Orthodox Church to celebrate the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation. It is celebrated on 1 September. Other Christian churches have joined them in it for a number of years. The day is now an annual event in the Catholic Church. As Pope Francis explains, it is a “significant occasion for prayer, reflection, conversion and the adoption of appropriate lifestyles.” Read his message for the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation here. Now Pope Francis is asking Catholics to join in the Season of Creation 2016. A Catholic Season of Creation 2016 Pope Francis is building on the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation by inviting Catholics to join in celebrating the Season of Creation. The idea of celebrating a Season of Creation began in the Lutheran Church in Adelaide, Australia in 2000. Now it is celebrated by many different churches all over the world. The season embraces the four Sundays of September before the Feast of St Francis of Assisi – 4 October. Norman Habel explains: “The season of Creation offers an opportunity for churches to introduce new visual elements into their worship and to be ecumenical and connected with creation in a particular context.” Read more about the history of the Season of Creation here. Catholic Resources Year C The Columban Mission Institute’s Centre for Peace, Ecology and Justice provides excellent resources for the Season of Creation for Catholic congregations and schools. They include prayer, reflection and action ideas and are linked to the readings in the Catholic lectionary. Download Catholic resources for the Season of Creation 2016 here. More on Catholic Teaching Find out more about Catholic teaching on integral ecology here. Learn about Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’ on the care of our common home here. Watch Pope Francis’ Video Pope Francis invites us to pray for the care of creation on 1 September and to take action during the Season of Creation. What action will you take between 1 September and 4 October?
Director of the Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office, Fr Maurizio Pettena calls for immediate action on the allegations made in the leaked Nauru files. The Nauru files detail numerous alleged incidents of physical and sexual abuse of detainees at Australia’s offshore immigration detention centre. Fr Pettena expressed “grave concern that more than half of the allegations involve children, even though they make up %18 of those in detention.” He also expressed concern about “the manner in which these allegations have been handled, in particular the downgrading of severity in allegations.” Fr Pettena called on the Australian Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton to take immediate action. He declared that “there has been a consistent decline in the mental and physical condition of refugees on Nauru.” Hence he demanded that “concrete action must be taken to improve conditions.” Meanwhile, community movements are calling for the asylum seekers to be brought to Australia. Speaking on behalf of the Australian Catholic Bishops, Fr Pettena made their position clear. He explains that it is not only the allegations made in the Nauru files that are of concern, but the whole policy regime. “The Catholic Church opposes mandatory detention and offshore detention because these policy responses do not respect the dignity of people seeking our help. It is imperative that the dignity of the human person must always come first. Governments have a responsibility to manage migration flows, but the Australian Government’s current approach is harsh and should change.” Read the Full Statement Read the full statement here.
Environmental Concern or Integral Ecology? The Catholic Social Teaching theme of integral ecology is becoming more urgent and important. Pope Francis’s encyclical Laudato Si’, on care for our common home, stresses that everything is connected. This means that our approach to ecology must be holistic. Ecology goes beyond care for the natural environment. It embraces the vast network of relationships between all that is. Integral ecology requires “an integrated approach to combatting poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature.” (LS n 139) “…genuine care for our own lives and our relationships with nature is inseparable from fraternity, justice and faithfulness to others.” (Pope Francis, Laudato Si’, n 70) Causes & Responsibility Of course we must all take personal responsibility for our impact on the rest of creation. But the deeper causes of environmental problems usually lie beyond personal behaviour. These causes are connected to models of development, production and consumption. The poorest people and most disadvantaged communities often suffer the most from the consequences of environmental problems. They may have fewer choices to avoid contributing to environmental problems. Poverty can be both a cause and a consequence of ecological problems. As the Australian Bishops say: “Policies which deal equitably and effectively with how we develop our natural resources for economic and social development, while working to address land salination, the degradation of rivers, fair distribution of water, global warming and prudent management of fragile ecosystems are part of caring for God’s created world, including humanity. Australia’s future prosperity is closely linked with how well we care for our ecosystems and how effectively we transition to sustainable practices.” (Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, Vote for the Common Good: Election Statement 2013) Human Creatures “We are part of nature, included in it and thus in constant interaction with it. Recognizing the reasons why a given area is polluted requires a study of the workings of society, its economy, its behaviour patterns, the way it grasps reality.” (Pope Francis, Laudato Si’, n 139) Human beings are part of creation, not outside of it. The work of nurturing the human ecology of our communities is deeply linked with our thinking about development, and our relationship with the rest of creation. Social inclusion and economic sustainability are interrelated. Integral ecology calls us to understand our place as part of God’s creation and our responsibility for this planet, which is our common home. Find out More Visit this page for an introduction to Laudato Si’ a link to the full text of the encyclical, and to further resources.